A recent study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that given the right conditions, contact high’s are very real.
The study was published this month in the journal, Alcohol and Drug Dependance, and confirms that second hand marijuana smoke can cause even nonsmokers to become mildly inebriated. Though weakened, the effects of marijuana were shown to elicit minor problems with memory and coordination. The tests by John’s Hopkins showed that under the right conditions, second-hand smokers could even test positive for THC in a standard workplace drug test.
Don’t cancel that job interview yet though, the conditions in which this study took place were conducted in a worst-case (best-case?) scenario, like being locked in a Mini Cooper whilst smoking ten joints. The leading author in the study, Evan Herrmann, Ph.D spoke to the conditions saying, “It could happen in the real world, but it couldn’t happen to someone without him or her being aware of it.” Basically, if you have a forthcoming drug test; don’t get in that Mini Cooper.
The new research is said to be the most comprehensive study of it’s kind since the 1980’s. Similarly, those studies also concluded that THC could turn up in nonsmokers’ bodies after an hour or more spent in small spaces with large amounts of marijuana smoke. The new research is groundbreaking in that the lab also tested the cognitive effects associated with a contact high.
Now you may be thinking, “Where the hell was I when this study was being conducted?” Not so fast champ. In this small-scale study, six smokers and six non-smokers were placed in 10 by 13 foot rooms for one hour, where each smoker was given ten marijuana cigarettes to consume. Subjects were placed in one of two rooms, with the treatment group in a fan-ventilated room and the control group on a non-ventilated room; windows up! My guess is that even with an oxygen tank, one might still emerge with a serious case of the red-eye.
After being exposed to copious amounts of marijuana smoke, each subject’s blood, urine, and saliva were tested for THC. All six non-smoking subjects who sat in the non-ventilated room had detectable levels of THC in both their urine and blood. Even hours after the experiment ended, one of the nonsmoking subjects tested positive for THC at the cutoff level used in federal workplaces (50 nanograms per milliliter).
In the ventilated (control) room, none of the subjects tested positive for THC. Nor did they report feeling high. In the non-ventilated room, subjects reported pleasant and tired feelings. The author of the study reported, “The behavioral and cognitive effects were minor and consistent with a mild cannabis effect.” So that does it. Yes, you can get a contact high, albeit not all that strong.
Conversely, if you have been exposed to marijuana smoke at a concert or party, you probably shouldn’t be worried. After all, it would likely take 6 people smoking 60 joints in a small, unventilated room to warrant a cause for concern.
This post was originally published on May 14, 2015, it was updated on October 5, 2017.